Bankers and Dealers In Government Securities
HARVEY E. FISK
Reprinted from the
Three achievements entitle the firm of Fisk & Hatch to have their name inscribed in the financial history of the United States. They were among the largest distributors of government bonds during the dark days of the Civil War and for the entire period of their business were known throughout the land for large dealings in government bonds. Secondly, they financed the construction of the western end of the first transcontinental railroad and marketed the United States subsidy bonds for the entire line. Thirdly, they financed the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad from tidewater to Louisville, Kentucky. They temporarily suspended operations in 1873 but soon resumed business. The partnership was dissolved in 1885.
The history of the firm of Fisk & Hatch falls naturally into five periods. From 1862 to 1867 their energies were devoted entirely to marketing bonds for the United States, to dealing in such bonds, and to their general business as private bankers. In 1867 they undertook the financing of the Central Pacific Railroad and its allied lines. This work was completed in 1869. In 1870 they assumed the financing of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. The heaviest part of this task ended in 1873. In this fateful year occurred one of the most severe financial crises in the history of the country. With many others, the firm were compelled temporarily to suspend payments, but soon resumed, and in the face of great obstacles succeeded in fighting their way through the following period of business depression until, in 1879, general business again revived and the firm's business prospered, except for a brief period at the close. In 1885 the firm liquidated their affairs and the partnership, which had covered a period of twenty-three years, was dissolved. It may be noted here that for the entire period the firm continued to be one of the leading houses dealing in United States bonds and that also, during the entire period, they transacted a general banking business. Their business was nationwide. They did not engage in foreign banking. Important negotiations, especially those connected with the selling abroad of Central Pacific bonds and stock and of Southern Pacific bonds, were financed through foreign bankers having agencies in New York. The relations of the firm with foreign houses, especially with Messrs. Philip Speyer & Company (since 1878, Speyer & Company), representatives in America of Messrs. L. Speyer-Ellisen & Company of Frankfurt am Main, were important, close, cordial, and profitable.
The firm of Fisk & Hatch began business at 38 Wall Street, New York, on March 12, 1862. The active partners were Harvey Fisk and Alfrederick Smith Hatch. They were both Vermonters and in their early thirties; Mr. Hatch was born in Norwich, Vermont, on July 24, 1829, and Mr. Fisk in New Haven, Vermont, on April 26, 1831. They had each had a long previous training in banking. In the early 'fifties Mr. Hatch was working in a bank in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1856 he moved to Jersey City and became cashier of the Bank of Jersey City, then recently started. Mr. Fisk, after having served an apprenticeship as a clerk in a general store in Trenton, New Jersey, from his seventeenth to his twenty-first year, moved to New York in 1852 where, on May 2, he became assistant receiving teller in the Mechanics Bank, then located at 33 Wall Street. This position was obtained through the good offices of his uncle Jonathan Fisk, who was then cashier of the Mechanics' Bank of Trenton, New Jersey. Mr. Fisk's salary to start with was $400 a year. In a month it was raised to $500 and in December to $800. In August, 1853, he received "a very flattering offer from the Bank of the Commonwealth of the post of third teller, salary $1,000." He remained at the Bank of the Commonwealth, where he ultimately became paying teller, until he entered into partnership with Mr. Hatch in March 1862.
Thus, the young men were long in experience but short of cash. To remedy this deficiency they associated with themselves four "capitalists" who between them provided $15,000 working capital. Jonathan Fisk, Mr. Fisk's uncle, provided $5,000. L. E. Chittenden, then Register of the United States Treasury, Mr. Hatch's brother-in-law, subscribed $5,000. Mr. Hatch's brother, William B. Hatch, contributed $2,500 and L. T. Merrill, a friend of the active partners, also contributed $2,500. Profits were to be divided one-half to capital and one-half to the active partners. This partnership lasted for three years. During this period the profits were $407,953, of which amount the silent partners received one-half. A new firm was then formed, composed only of Harvey Fisk and A.S. Hatch, as equal partners, with a capital of $250,000.
The business of Fisk & Hatch, from the very beginning, was chiefly dealing in the bonds of the United States Government. The firm rendered great assistance to the government by popularizing the latter's bonds. The war loans were largely placed through Jay Cooke of Philadelphia, who had been appointed by Secretary Chase as special agent of the government for the sale of bonds, with power to appoint subagents. The general agent was allowed a commission of one-half of one per cent on the first ten million sold, and three-eighths on subscriptions beyond that amount. These allowances covered his own commission, his disbursements, and the commission to subagents. The subagents were allowed a commission of one-eighth of one per cent. Jay Cooke appointed Fisk & Hatch along with other firms as agents for New York and New England. Fisk & Hatch quickly outdistanced all the other agents. Their patriotism never swerved, even in the darkest hours of the nation's peril. They worked night as well as day, and their sales quickly mounted up into the millions. The name of Fisk & Hatch became identified with that of the government, so that their very loyalty reacted in their favor and caused the firm to be regarded with a feeling of confidence. Business rushed in upon them from all directions. In addition to their business in government bonds they soon had a large brokerage business and a heavy line of deposits.
It is not easy for us now to realize what it meant for two young men, but little known, just starting in business with a small, borrowed capital, to be so loyal, and to push the bonds of the government to the front in the face of disasters on the field of battle. To us, who only know government bonds as the resort of the most conservative investors, it is almost impossible to realize that in the early 'sixties men laid down their money on the counter of the subtreasuries or handed it to the government's agents, doubting whether they would ever see it again. It took true courage and patriotism in those days to loan money to the government by buying its bonds. I cannot illustrate in any better way the manner in which the sentiment of loyalty was appealed to in the first efforts to popularize the government loans than by quoting the following confidential circular, which was sent by Fisk & Hatch to bank officers throughout the country:
We are engaged in negotiating the new five-twenty-year six per cent loan on behalf of the government. We desire the co-operation of patriotic bank officers and bankers in the effort to popularize this loan, and bring it to the attention of the people throughout the country. We are satisfied that if the real facts concerning the extent of the public debt at the present time, the immense resources of the government now being developed. . . . are properly laid before the people, money will flow into the Treasury from the sale of these bonds with sufficient rapidity to supply all its wants, and effectively solve the problem of the national finances . . . .
On Tuesday, May 9,
1864, Fisk & Hatch moved into a new office located at 5
Nassau Street, where they remained as long as they were in
business. On May 5 they wrote to Jay Cooke that they
intended "to celebrate that event [removal to their new
offices] with the biggest order for 7-30's that you ever
had&emdash;a regular astonisher. We shall embody it in a
special telegram to you which we should be glad to have you
quote entire in your regular dispatch to the press." When
the order arrived it was for $5,059,400, the largest single
order given for any issue of United States bonds up to that
Probably the last
opportunity to obtain from the Government, at par, a
security that will pay interest at the rate of seven and
three-tenths per cent per annum.
By buying them you loan your money to your Government, and assist in promptly paying off the brave boys who have fought our battles, put down the rebellion, and are now coming home.
The first circular,
quoted above and issued in 1862, refers to the five-twenty
loan. This was the first great war loan. The last great war
loan was the seven-thirty loan referred to in the second
It was in 1863-64 that Congress chartered and subsidized various companies organized to build a railroad to the Pacific Coast. Theretofore all communication between the eastern and central portions of the country and the West Coast was via Cape Horn, the Isthmus of Panama, or by overland caravans. The time required to reach San Francisco from Chicago overland was from six to eight weeks, and the journey was full of hardship and danger.
It was felt to be a military necessity to secure an overland railroad. In order to induce the prompt construction of such a road, Congress passed laws offering heavy subsidies in the way of lands, and loans of the national credit in the shape of government six per cent currency bonds, provided the needed roads were promptly built. The charter for the main trunk line was granted to two different corporations. One, the Central Pacific, was to build from the Pacific coast eastward; the other, the Union Pacific, was to build from Omaha on the Missouri River westward. The lines were to be extended until they met. The men chiefly interested in the Central Pacific were Leland Stanford, Timothy Hopkins, Charles Crocker, and C. P. Huntington&emdash;all Californians.
The immediate work of construction was taken in charge by the three men first named, while Mr. Huntington came to New York to attend to raising the money needed, purchasing supplies, and generally looking after the interests of the company in the East.
Naturally the promoters of these railroads, having secured government bonds, thought the great popularity which bonds of the government had attained would enable them readily to market the subsidy bonds. In this, however, they were disappointed. The public, not recognizing the bonds as a direct government obligation, hesitated to buy them; then again, the bonds were specifically payable in "lawful money," while all other government bonds were payable in coin. After several ineffectual efforts to market the bonds, the Union Pacific Railroad people finally came to Fisk & Hatch and asked for their co-operation. After some negotiation this was granted, and with their endorsement the $27,855,000 bonds which came to be known in the market as "currency sixes" quickly came into favor and were disposed of readily, as from time to time they were received from the government. A like service was performed for the Central Pacific Railroad. Thus, naturally, the firm became acquainted with the western railroad enterprise, and were induced by Mr. Huntington to undertake the negotiation of the first mortgage bonds of the Central Pacific Railroad. It is interesting to note at this point that in all the vast transactions, amounting to many millions of dollars, between Fisk & Hatch and Mr. Huntington, there were no written contracts. The firm verbally promised Mr. Huntington to see him through, and this promise was kept during the most adverse times. When any special negotiation was concluded between them, it was briefly expressed in a penciled memorandum on a little blue ticket which Mr. Fisk and Mr. Huntington each initialed. On this basis of mutual trust and respect Fisk & Hatch negotiated successfully $27,855,000 government-aid bonds, and some $53,000,000 of bonds upon the main line and branches of the Central Pacific; the firm was also instrumental in popularizing the Central Pacific stock. The interest on these bonds was always promptly paid, and as the bonds matured, the principal was met with equal promptness; both the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Companies have repaid to the government the principal and interest of the subsidy bonds.
The success of the Pacific roads, which were completed and opened to traffic on May 10, 1869, five years after construction began, led Mr. Huntington and his associates in the East to undertake the construction of a new trunk line from the port of Newport News, on Chesapeake Bay, through the Virginias to the West. Fisk & Hatch were asked to finance the company and they reluctantly consented to do so.
It is not my purpose to go exhaustively into the history of the Chesapeake & Ohio. Subsequent events have justified its construction, and it is today one of our most successful railroads, but it was responsible for more than ten years of great anxiety to both Mr. Fisk and Mr. Hatch.
The cost of constructing the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad proved to be several million dollars in excess of original estimates. It became necessary, therefore, after the first mortgage bonds had been sold, to raise a large amount of money by other methods. Fisk & Hatch, as the fiscal agents of the Company, were induced to make temporary advances from time to time. These advances, in September 1873, amounted to $2,689,000.
In the panic of 1873 the directors of the Chesapeake & Ohio stood aside and allowed Fisk & Hatch to suspend payment. Such men as C. P. Huntington, A. A. Low, William H. Aspinwall, Jonas G. Clark, and David Stewart, truly described in the circulars in which the bonds were offered to the public as "some of our most conservative and substantial businessmen, of large means and the highest standing," and whose connection with the enterprise was supposed to be "a guarantee of the most adequate protection of the interests of the holders of the company's securities," not only allowed the interest on the bonds to go by default, but also left the Company's bankers to bear the whole burden of the failure. In the light of subsequent events the decision not to pay the interest due in November, 1873, is perhaps justified but no explanation can justify the refusal to assist Fisk & Hatch in carrying a burden which had been assumed for the common good.
When Fisk & Hatch suspended payment in 1873, their liabilities exceeded $8,000,000. During the 3 months of the suspension of business about $4,000,000 of liabilities were paid. On the balance the firm secured an extension of from 1 to 4 years. The unsecured liabilities to depositors amounted to $1,298,186; of this amount $421,313 was paid at once, and the remainder, $876,873, extended over a period of 2 years at 7 per cent interest.
The "loans payable" at date of resumption amounted to $2,952,409. The loans secured by Central Pacific bonds were extended over a period of 3 years, and those secured by Chesapeake & Ohio bonds were extended over a period of 4 years; interest in each case to accrue at 7 per cent. The principal assets of the firm were a claim against the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, secured by about $4,500,000 of the Company's bonds, for $2,700,000, and Chesapeake & Ohio bonds and stock amounting at par to $737,000 and valued at $646,000.
In 1874 and 1875 the business of the firm was fairly good, yielding a net profit for the 2 years of about $300,000. In 1874 a further extension to December 31, 1876, was secured from depositors and collateral security was given.
At the close of 1875 about $750,000 of the 1873 indebtedness had been paid with 7 per cent interest but in the adjustment of accounts with the Central Pacific Railroad the firm's indebtedness was increased some $830,000. The collaterals, which the Company had given on its loans, if sold by Fisk & Hatch in 1873, would scarcely have brought the face of the loans. The firm always felt that in view of this fact the final settlement of accounts by which Mr. Huntington claimed the full benefit of the advanced values realized for these securities was unjust, especially in view of the fact that it was only by their personal efforts that these loans had not been peremptorily closed out in 1873, and that later the bonds were sold to good advantage.
In 1876 came "the awful pinch and terrible shrinkage," so that the firm's total holdings of Chesapeake & Ohio securities, including the collaterals to the Company's loan, would not have brought $400,000. At one time in 1876 Fisk & Hatch owed $3,000,000 and did not have $10,000 toward paying it, but they did not give up. They asked for and secured from their creditors holding Chesapeake & Ohio securities as collateral, a further extension of 10 years, and from their depositors, a further extension of 3 years. The firm settled with the Chesapeake & Ohio in the fall of 1876, taking the securities for the debt. If these securities had been sold at this time, there would have been a loss on this account of at least $2,000,000.
The business of 1876 showed a loss of over $200,000, the 1877 business a loss of nearly $200,000, the business of 1878 a profit of $72,000. The net result, therefore, of the business of the 5 years following the panic, that is, 1874-78 inclusive, was a loss of about $80,000. This loss was on the new business and there was besides the terrible shrinkage in the securities in the old account.
At last, in 1879, following the resumption of specie payments, the turn came. The firm took a prominent part in the marketing of the bonds sold by the government to provide for refunding the maturing five-twenties. The profits of this year were over $500,000. They were thus enabled to pay $430,000 on account of the 1873 indebtedness. In this year, also, the reorganization of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad was perfected. General business conditions began to improve. Chesapeake & Ohio affairs got into better shape, and in l880 its securities once more were marketable at prices which would have permitted the firm to liquidate and pay its old loans secured by the bonds of the Company, had not other large holders come into the market with their bonds, so that Fisk & Hatch, in self-defense, had to stand aside. They were enabled, however, to sell a sufficient amount to pay the principal sum to all creditors except the Central Pacific Railroad Company. The interest was paid in full at 7 per cent, on all accounts except those secured by Chesapeake & Ohio bonds and stocks; on these the interest was computed at 7 per cent, and new loans protected by Chesapeake & Ohio stocks with 20 per cent margin were made to cover this interest. These loans bore interest at 5 per cent. In 1881, in order to protect the market for their own holdings, the firm were compelled to buy a large block of Chesapeake & Ohio securities thrown upon the market by an institution, for which they paid $1,000,000 in cash. In the end this transaction resulted in a loss to the firm of some $300,000.
During the term of William Windom's incumbency as Secretary of the Treasury from March 8, 1881, to November 13, 1881, several large issues of government bonds were maturing. During 1881 the government had the right to redeem $671,587,000 in 6 per cent and 5 per cent bonds. A refunding bill had been passed by Congress in the previous, year, but was vetoed by President Hayes because of provisions incorporated therein which were manifestly unfair to the national banks. Thus it was that when Secretary Windom came into office, while the market afforded a good opportunity to fund these bonds into bonds bearing a much lower rate of interest, there was no law on the statute books making possible such an operation. In this emergency Fisk & Hatch suggested to Secretary Windom the idea of offering the bondholders the privilege of "continuing" their bonds during the pleasure of the government with interest at 3-1/2 per cent. This privilege was accepted by holders of upwards of $178,000,000 6's and $401,000,000 5's at a saving to the government in interest payments at the rate of $10,474,000 annually and at a total cost of less than $10,500.
The business of the firm was reasonably good in 1881, but very poor in 1882. In April 1883, Mr. Fisk's health gave way, as the result of the terrible strain he had been under since 1873. In June he was compelled to give up business entirely, and he did not return to the office to transact any further business until May 1884. A great part of this time, from August 1883, he was in Europe.
During this period the country was passing through a crucial economic situation which, while clear enough in retrospect, was not so easily sensed by those in the midst of it. A silver surplus was piling up in the Treasury, and foreign exchange was moving heavily against the United States. Europe not only bought from America the smallest amount of merchandise purchased in five years, but it sold on our markets an unusual volume of merchandise and a heavy installment of American securities. Easy money stimulated the purchase of high-grade securities. But the market discriminated sharply against the second-grade securities, quotations for which steadily declined.
On account of the ease in money Mr. Hatch purchased a large line of choice investment bonds, in trading in which there was a considerable profit.
On account of anticipated legislation at Washington, which, if consummated, would have considerably advanced the price of United States securities, he bought heavily of these bonds. However, uneasiness over the currency situation, which was decidedly emphasized in February, 1884, by the ill-judged hint of the local Treasury authorities that it might be deemed advisable to force out silver through Treasury payments in New York, coming on top of a heavy liquidation of the second-grade securities already mentioned, caused a market situation inimical to all securities. And the failure of the expected legislation in favor of government securities caught the firm in two ways. Their heavy holdings of Chesapeake & Ohio securities went down with the other second-grade securities and their large holdings of government bonds became top-heavy at the same time. On May 6, 1884, came the failure of the Marine Bank and of Grant & Ward, and on May 14 the Metropolitan National Bank suspended. Money, which had been a drug in the market, jumped from 2 per cent per annum to 1 per cent a day (365 per cent per annum), and everything looked black. Mr. Fisk was hastily summoned from his country home, where he had been staying since his return from Europe a few days previously. The results of the hard, patient work of years were hanging in the balance. The firm was carrying between $13,000,000 and $14,000,000 of government bonds and had liabilities of nearly $20,000,000. Under the circumstances a temporary suspension was inevitable. This took place on May 15.
However, both men set to work at once to untangle the snarled condition of the firm's affairs, and within two weeks almost all the creditors had been paid in full, or the money provided with which to pay them. We must mention as exceptions three large accounts growing out of the old Chesapeake & Ohio situation. These amounts were compromised, the creditors taking the securities held as collateral in settlement thereof, but they are believed ultimately to have realized from the collateral which they accepted in settlement, very nearly, if not quite, the full value of the obligation.
It may be said, therefore, with substantial accuracy that Fisk & Hatch finally paid their creditors in full with interest. The interest account was enormous, and enough to take the heart out of any man. The interest paid for carrying the securities held at the time of the suspension in 1873 until accounts had been finally closed in 1884 amounted to about $1,300,000. The net loss incident to the business of 1873 was $951,688.
After the accounts had been made up, prior to resuming business in 1884, it was found that $600,000 would be required to pay all creditors in full. Mr. Fisk and Mr. Hatch each paid in one-half, derived from the savings of the early years or from other resources.
The firm resumed
business June 2, 1884, but little was done except to
liquidate; and, finally, in March 1885, twenty-three years
after the partnership had been formed, it was dissolved.
It is not out of family pride that I say that from beginning to end both men worked on the principle that "a good name is to be preferred to great riches." They always considered the interests of their clients. When they made money, they were generous to a fault; and after 1873 they worked literally night as well as day, against all sorts of obstacles, in order not only to pay their own creditors in full with interest, but also to save the credit of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and to retrieve the fortunes of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company. Having sold and recommended the bonds of these companies, they felt in honor bound to make them good if by any possibility this could be accomplished. The Central Pacific has always met its obligations to its bondholders, even in the most trying times. The Chesapeake & Ohio has at last vindicated its conception and construction and those who were able to hold on to its securities which they owned until the fortunes of the Company had been established on a firm basis suffered little loss of either principal or interest, although in the darkest days the bonds fell to almost nothing in the market. Of course the holders of the second-mortgage bonds did not fare so well as did the first-mortgage bondholders but the bonds held by the general public were nearly all firsts, the seconds being mainly held by the "insiders," Fisk & Hatch having the greater proportion themselves.
The customers of Fisk & Hatch were drawn from all classes of society. Their office was thronged with the rich and the poor. Bank officers from all over the Union came to consult the firm as to which issues of government bonds would afford the most profitable basis for their issues of circulating notes. Members and representatives of wealthy families&emdash;the Astors, the Vanderbilts, and the Standard Oil group and many others who were making money in oil; also actors and actresses, merchants, physicians, and lawyers, all came to exchange their business or professional profits for Uncle Sam's bonds and, later on, as the government repaid its loans, for other good securities.
Fisk & Hatch's office was also a common meeting place for the newspapermen of the day. They knew that there they would obtain the latest and most reliable news in regard to the government's finances, for the firm always kept in close touch with Washington, both by letter and by wire&emdash;as the expression used to be. There was no telephone in those days.
The firm was a large and constant advertiser. They made liberal use of the columns of the New York daily papers and also of the leading weekly publications&emdash;not only the great financial weekly, the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, but the literary and religious press&emdash;especially The Nation, in those days a journal of great influence, and the Independent, also influential in its field. The denominational journals, and Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's, the illustrated papers of the day, were extensively used by them. It was a rule of the firm to insist upon preferred positions for their advertisements. In Harper's Weekly their advertisement appeared directly under the cartoon in the upper left corner of the last page. The dailies and the Chronicle created new positions for them right in the midst of the financial news columns, and entirely apart from the regular advertising columns. These preferred positions were expensive, but the firm believed that, "if it paid to advertise," the advertisement must be so placed that it could be easily and quickly read. For this reason the advertisements were usually rather short. When the firm had too many imitators, as sometimes happened, they would switch their announcement to a prominent place in the regular advertising columns or would insist on a new special location being found for them.
The press was always friendly to Fisk & Hatch and often referred to the firm in the news and editorial columns. One reason for this attitude was undoubtedly their ardent patriotism and another was the fact that they were able to interpret the news from Washington in a way which added to its value and interest to the public. This same friendliness of the press, in connection with the firm's activities in financing the government, carried over into their subsequent activities in connection with the financing of the Pacific and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroads.
Another form of advertising at which the firm was adept was the use of circulars and pamphlets. A steady stream of such printed matter flowed out to the banks and other institutions, and at times such publications were sent to individual investors. Since these circulars always contained some interesting announcement, they were sure of a careful reading and nearly always resulted in business. It may be noted in passing that in the days of Fisk & Hatch bond salesmen were unheard of. The idea of such a method of distribution would have been anathema.
The firm was a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the membership standing in Mr. Hatch's name. In 1883-84 Mr. Hatch was president of the Exchange. Either Mr. Hatch in person or one of the firm's trusted brokers attended the three daily "calls" of government bonds at which quotations were recorded.
The principal transactions in government securities were made "over the counter"--as the phrase was, of the principal dealers. These were Fisk & Hatch, Vermilye & Company, and after March 1866, Jay Cooke & Company. Prior to 1866 Jay Cookes headquarters had been in Philadelphia. There were other firms which sporadically dealt in government bonds, and there were at times quite a flock of smaller dealers, but the firms named were "the bellwethers." The government bond brokers were in a class by themselves. Perhaps those best known who were members of the exchange were William T. Phipard of Whitehouse & Company and A. M. Cahoone of Cahoone & Westcott. The principal intermediaries between the dealers and between the dealers and the Wall Street banks and banking houses were Albert Stetheimer, whose chief clients were among the foreign bankers, and Robert M. Cornell, who had a large clientele among the domestic houses and the banks. As a rule Stetheimer "gave up" his principals&emdash;that is he acted simply as a broker, leaving the principals to make deliveries direct. On the other hand Cornell was most secretive. He had the absolute confidence of everyone and was entrusted with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of government securities for delivery. These he would stuff in the capacious pockets of his loose-fitting tweed coat. He always wore a light colored tweed suit and was thus attired even at his daughter's wedding. He would make delivery, deposit his customer's cheque in his own bank and then hand his personal cheque, duly certified, to the seller.
No account of the
business of Fisk & Hatch would be complete without
reference to the two colored porters who first and last must
have handled nearly the whole government debt and without
the loss of a single dollar. Incidentally it may be
mentioned that in the 'sixties, 'seventies and 'eighties no
crook dared show his head below Fulton Street. This was the
deadline for such gentry.
FISK, Harvey, financier, was
born in New Haven, Addison Co., Vt., April 26, 1831, son of
Joel and Clarinda (Chapman) Fisk. William Fisk, his first
American ancestor emigrated from England to Wenham, Mass.,
in 1637, and his son, William, was married to Sarah Kilhan,
their son, Ebenezer, being for twenty years a deacon of the
church at Wenham. The latter was married to Elizabeth Fuller
and had a son, Ebenezer (b. 1716, d. 1804), who settled at
Shelburne, Mass., and in 1740 was married to Dorcas Tyler.
Their son, Moses, who was married in 1789 to Hannah
Batchelder, was elected, in 1801, a deacon of the
Congregational Church of Waitsfield, Vt., and his son, the
father of Harvey, was for many years a pastor of
Congregational and Presbyterian churches in Vermont and New
York, serving for two years as a missionary in Canada.
Harvey Fisk received his early education in the district
schools and from his father, who was a graduate of
Middlebury College; studied French in Canada (1844-40);
taught that language in Bakersfield (Vt.) Academy and in the
latter year became a clerk in a drygoods store in Trenton,
N.J., where he remained for four years. On May 2, 1852, he
became assistant receiving teller of the Mechanics' Bank,
New York City, and in August 1853, was made third teller in
the Bank of the Commonwealth, in which position he remained
for nearly nine years. On March 1, 1862, he formed the
banking firm of Fisk & Hatch, which, during the Civil
War, floated many millions of dollars worth of government
bonds, reviving the public credit and confidence beyond all
anticipation and aiding greatly in placing the national
finances upon a firm foundation. Acting as special agents of
Jay Cooke & Co., Mr. Fisk's firm obtained within one
month's time nearly $170,000,000 for the U.S. Government. It
was at his suggestion that Sec. William Windom funded the
five and six per cent bonds maturing in 1881, by giving the
holders the privilege of presenting their bonds to be
stamped as extended at three and one-half percent. In
1865-68 Mr. Fisk's firm successfully negotiated $27,855,000
worth of government subsidy bonds issued in aid of the Union
Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads, and placed
$53,000,000 worth of bonds issued by the Central Pacific
company itself, thus securing the success of this great
enterprise. In March, 1885, the partnership of Fisk &
Hatch was dissolved, and the firm reorganized under the name
of Harvey Fisk & Sons, the new organization entering
upon its career with the high reputation given it by the
name of its founder, who in all his financial dealings, was
known to protect the interests of his customers even to the
extent of personal detriment. Mr. Fisk possessed a character
of unremitting benevolence, contributing liberally to the
mission boards of the Presbyterian church, assisting to
sustain several mission churches, and generously adding to
the endowment of Princeton Theological Seminary. He was
married, Dec. 13, 1853, to Louisa, daughter of Alexander B.
Green, of Trenton, N. J., and had six sons and five
daughters. His death occurred at Wilburtha, N. J., Nov. 8,
All royalties after out-of-pocket expenses from Jack Corbett, Mariner will be donated by the Hatch family to The New York City Rescue Mission founded by Jerry McAuley and A. S. Hatch 130 years ago. See The New York City Rescue Mission on 9/11.